The strange story of Dune and Dune 2, a great game “series” that was nearly unrelated

The strange story behind Dune and Dune 2 involves genre change-ups and a last-minute un-cancellation.

With Dune back in the public eye thanks to Denis Villeneuve’s recent film adaption, you may be tempted to revisit its various video game adaptations – and to wonder why it had not one but two video game adaptations in 1992, one nominally a sequel to the other despite sharing nothing in common aside from the source material. Retro Gamer issue 228 has the full accounting on how they came to be, straight from the people in charge at the time, and you can pick up the full thing right here (opens in new tab).

Stephen Clarke-Willson, who worked as a producer on Dune, explained that Dune (that’s the one that’s just called Dune, no number or subtitle) was pitched “mostly as an adventure game.” As new developer Cryo Interactive got involved, it took on more visual inspiration from the 1984 David Lynch movie, but it also got behind schedule. Eventually, publisher Virgin Interactive decided to cancel Dune while sticking with Westwood’s project, the strategy game that would eventually be called Dune 2.

So why was it called Dune 2, and why did it come out the same year as the other, supposedly-canceled project? Well, when Virgin Interactive’s European operations were bought out by Sega around the same time, word of the cancellation apparently didn’t get through. Sega did an accounting of its operations soon after and discovered that it had a Dune game in development but no rights to the Dune license. Thankfully, the work done on the game since the transition was enough to convince Virgin to partner up with Sega to see it through to completion, with some last-minute additions bringing Cryo’s game closer in line with its new “sequel.”

“We had already started down the path with Westwood making a true strategy game,” Clarke-Wilsontold Retro Gamer, “and while we felt that while the saved-from-death Dune game from Cryo was great-looking visually and the first part was a decent adventure game, it needed some more gameplay depth. David Bishop worked closely with Cryo on the second half of the game to bring in those strategy elements.”

“Of course getting cancelled was probably no fun for anyone; but you have to admit Cryo really pulled a rabbit out of the hat, delivering a build that was good enough to get uncancelled.”

For more of the stories behind your favorite classic games, make sure you pick up a subscription to Retro Gamer (opens in new tab).

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